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Monday, September 21, 2020

It’s time to change the way the West thinks about Africa

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More than 40 African leaders have gathered in Washington, DC, this week on a mission to change conventional wisdom about a continent with big problems and even bigger potential. It is not an easy task, but it is long overdue.

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Far too many people dismiss Africa as a hopeless case of dysfunction, trapped in an endless drama of war, disease, and poverty. For decades, aid donors have provided billions of dollars in response to a chorus of appeals from African countries beset with humanitarian crises ranging from droughts, to floods, to widespread civil conflict. 

A recent cascade of crises has not added to the confidence of donors — religious violence and starvation in the Central African Republic, the mass abduction of girls in Nigeria, an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, anda flood of refugees from war-torn South Sudan into neighboring Ethiopia. Periodic revelations of corruption by African politicians and stolen or squandered aid add to the skepticism about the continent’s future. Can Africa ever overcome its problems?

Yes. In fact, it is doing just that, with help from the international community.

While it is the fashion these days to emphasise the role of women in development, the simple fact is that in Africa they really are critical, especially in ending the chronic hunger that still stalks the continent. Eight out of 10 of Africa’s farmers are women, and they have become the focus of organisations, like the Gates Foundation, seeking new approaches in developing agriculture.

Many tend to think of aid to Africa as charity, but in the agricultural sector there is huge potential. Africa has 60 percent of the world’s arable land. If we are to double food output in the coming decades to meet population growth, that land must be made more productive than it is today or we will all suffer.

There are signs of growth in African agriculture.  Fifteen out of 20 countries making the most progress on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to alleviate poverty, hunger and other social ills are, in fact, African, including our dear The Gambia, Benin, Ethiopia, Mali, Rwanda.

Even the criticisms of African corruption need to be put in perspective. Yes, we need to fight hard to ensure aid money is not diverted and to curb the corruption that plagues African economies, but there has been progress. Many who dwell solely on these issues are just looking for an excuse not to help. There is no excuse.

There is no question that Africa faces many serious issues on the road to development. But a new reality is emerging. It is time for perceptions to change as well.

Isatou Janneh

Bakau New Town

 

Art: I beg to differ

 

Dear editor,

For some time now I have been in absolute disagreement with colleagues in art education about pointillism being a shading technique. If we knew the origin and function of shading and pointillism there will be no misunderstanding and confusion about the two. What is shading? Shading started as chiaroscuro one of the most important discoveries in art during the renaissance in Italy (1300AD-1600AD). It is the application of varied tonal values (lights and darks) to drawn objects to create the illusion of solidity, three dimensionality, and bulkiness and to make a drawn object look real. There are different types of shading such as smooth shading which can be executed in pencil, crayon, pastel and paint, hatching and cross-hatching which can be executed in pencil, pen and ink, stipple which is generally mistaken for pointillism. Stipple can be executed in pencil, pen and ink, and in colour. May be this is the cause of the error, misunderstanding and confusion, and colour. In brief, shading is line value applied to a drawn picture to create form, shadow or pattern. Shading gives shape and roundness to drawn objects.

Pointilism on the other hand is a painting technique invented to create the illusion of colour mixing. If small dots of two pure colours (primary or spectrum colours) are placed together so that they intermingle but do not actually overlap and modify each other, the visual effect from a distance is as though the two colours were mixed before application. A school of painting which began in France in the late 19th century experimented widely with painting which consisted entirely of small separate dots of colour. This was called pointillism and the school of painting impressionist school. Its most popular advocates were George Seurat, Edgar Dugas, Claude Monet and August Renoir.

Each time I challenge colleagues on the above, they would stubbornly argue that they read it in a book that pointillism is a shading technique. I wish to remind them that books are written by man and that there could be inaccuracies in facts and information in the process.

Salieu John

St Joseph’s Senior Secondary School

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